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Former Tucumcari officer target in arson investigation

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Recently resigned Tucumcari police Officer Dustin “Dusty” Lopez is the target of a state police investigation in a series of arson fires in the city last month, according to court records.

Lopez resigned Oct. 2, the day after New Mexico State Police searched his home. Investigators seized Lopez's cell phone while executing the search warrant, according to court records.

According to an affidavit filed in Quay County Magistrate Court:

• State police received information there was evidence on Lopez’s cell phone connecting him and four others with a series of arson fires set in Tucumcari in September.

• Investigators said they were told there were pictures of a building burning that they believed to be the Tucumcari Inn. There were also collaborating statements from additional witnesses implicating Lopez in arsons that occurred in the city. The four others are implicated as well.

• A witness told state police he was at a drinking party on Sept. 3 with Lopez and the others and someone came up with the idea to burn a vacant house in the 500 block of North Fourth Street.

• The next morning, the witness said, he saw a text message sent to one of the five men that included photos of the Tucumcari Inn burning the same night as the vacant house. The witness told investigators the person receiving the text turned to him and said, "You never thought you would be burning down houses with cops."

No arrests or charges have been made in what is called an ongoing investigation by state police, said Sgt. Chad Pierce, public information officer.

Lopez did not give a reason for his decision to resign, said Tucumcari Police Chief Jason Braziel.

Braziel said Lopez was not placed on administrative leave and he was not asked or forced to resign. He said Lopez’s decision to leave the department was his own. Lopez turned in his badge and duty vehicle and is no longer a member of the department, said Braziel.

Lopez could not be reached for comment.

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